Pruning is essential for maintaining the best health of your trees and shrubs and may be necessary at any stage of a plant’s life!

Pruning benefits trees and shrubs by preserving the correct shape, encouraging new growth, and beautifying landscapes. Pruning is also important because it removes dangerous or annoying branches from the environment and increases the visibility that plant matter may obstruct.

Pruning Trees

Unfortunately, nature cannot be entirely responsible for your tree’s pruning needs. In fact, the forces of nature prey upon weak limbs and unhealthy structures. Ice, snow, and wind can leave behind unsightly and damaging wounds.

The cuts you create while pruning have to be achieved correctly so as not to harm the tree! You’ll want to make your pruning cuts at the node, or the place where branches meet and connect. You’ll notice that during the spring your tree will bud, and new branches develop until more nodes are formed. The space between nodes is called an internode.

Your pruning cuts should remove only the branch tissue and leave the stem tissue undamaged. Although the branch and stem tissues are attached at the node, they are still separate. When you cut only the branch tissues, the stem tissues of your tree will more likely avoid decay and the wound will seal successfully.

Let’s discuss some common types of pruning:

  • Crown thinning removes certain branches in order to increase the amount of light and air entering the crown of the tree. This pruning approach is mainly used on hardwoods.
  • Crown raising removes branches at the bottom of the tree crown in order to create space for objects and people.
  • Crown reduction, or drop crotch pruning, reduces the size of an enormous tree to fit the appropriate space. This method results in a more natural appearance, reduces stress and lasts longer which makes it a lot more preferred than topping.

To prune live branches, you’ll want to start by searching for the branch collar that emerges from the stem tissue beneath the base of the branch. Typically, there is a branch bark ridge that runs parallel to the branch angle on the upper surface along the stem of the tree. Make your cut just outside the branch bark ridge and angle down and away from the tree stem to avoid injuring the branch collar. You’ll want to make this cut as close as you can to the stem in the branch axil and, to avoid injury and encourage proper sealing, outside the branch bark ridge. Your second cut will be just outside your first cut. You’ll cut all the way through the branch and leave behind a short stub. You’ll go ahead and cut the stub just outside the branch bark ridge/branch collar which will complete this process of live limb removal.

For dead branches, make your pruning cut just outside the ring of woundwood tissue, following a similar fashion to the steps to remove live branches so as not to cause injury.

To successfully execute drop crotch cuts, begin your cut just above the branch bark ridge and continue through the stem parallel to the branch bark ridge. Typically, since the stem you are removing is too big and heavy to be supported by just one hand, you should use this three-cut method:

  1. Make a notch on the side of the stem opposite from the branch you will remove and above the branch crotch
  2. Make your second cut along the inside of the branch crotch, remaining above the branch bark ridge. Cut all the way through and above the notch.
  3. For your final cut, remove the remaining stub that is just inside the branch bark ridge and through the stem parallel to the branch bark ridge.

Pruning Shrubs

Shrubs should be simple to prune if you want to keep them low maintenance. When pruning, it’s best to keep the shrub in a natural form. If you shear your hedges, you will need to invest time in regular clipping to keep a clean appearance.

You want to avoid top-heavy hedges! Instead, create a shape that is wider at the base than at the top. This will promote good foliage cover and density throughout the entire plant. You may notice that shrubs will grow top-heavy, but this is bad since it shades the base.

When pruning bushes, use thinning cuts to remove certain shoots to where a side shoot is attached. This will result in a more natural and contained plant appearance. On certain shrubs, there may be multiple stems. Remove the older shoots towards the base to rejuvenate the shrub over time and benefit the plant!

check out more pruning tips and tricks in our other blog!
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